North Berwick Harbour: The Rise and Fall of Fishing

Built around 1150, North Berwick Harbour has served as a ferry service, a fishing resort and a useful import for materials such as wood and iron since its first documented record of existence in 1177.  Remaining unchanged today, the town crest is greatly symbolic of this significant centre of town.  When North Berwick received the Royal Charter and became a Royal Burgh in 1373, it was decided that the design of a ferryboat would be incorporated into the town crest, representing the early ferry services to Earlsferry in Fife, transporting up to 10,000 pilgrims each year.

In 1794, the focus of the harbour changed from pilgrimage ferries to fishing and exports.  Although the new arrival of the railways service from Edinburgh to North Berwick soon dominated the trade of crucial goods, including wheat, barley, iron, wood and steel, the focus on fishing allowed fishermen to send their catches to locations all over the UK.  It was not long until two shorter piers were constructed in order to accommodate larger vessels transporting the fresh fish.  The first of these was the North Pier which lasted from 1811 until a treacherous storm caused it to collapse in 1898.  The second of the piers was the Galloway Pier which lasted from 1877 until 1840 when it was demolished due to lack of traffic during the war period.  Due to the lack of appeal in rebuilding a larger pier, a smaller concrete pier exists in its place today.

(article supplied by Alison Wright, NBHS Pupil ©2011)